Over on his blog, my pal Bob Greenberger writes about the season finales of various TV shows. As has become the norm, most of the dramas wrap up the season with a cliffhanger of some sort. I suppose this goes back to the days of Dallas and its "Who shot J.R.?" season-ender. That particular mystery prompted one of the largest audiences in TV history for the first episode of the next season and is, no doubt, the reason so many shows do it now.
Unfortunately, there don't seem to be too many options that the writers have to choose from. At least, you wouldn't think so, given how a number of shows ended the season. (SPOILER WARNING: If you recorded these shows and haven't watched them yet, go watch and then come back.)
On Grey's Anatomy, George and/or Izzie could die (but that seems to hinge mostly on whether the two actors really want out of the show).
On Private Practice, the Amy Brennerman character is about to be Caesarian-sectioned on her living room floor by a crazy woman.
On 24, Jack might die of exposure to a bio-weapon.
On CSI: New York, the entire team has been shot at in a restaurant and any of them could die.
On Lost, everybody in 1977 has been blown up by a hydrogen bomb and might be dead.
Defying the trend, on Smallville, Jimmy Olsen actually died in the last episode.
There was a bit more variety with some of the other shows: House has checked himself into rehab for the summer. The Lawrence Fishburne character on C.S.I. will apparently spend the off-months mulling over having to shoot a bad guy. The main character in Fringe has taken an elevator ride to an alternate universe where the World Trade towers are still standing. And we are left to wonder which woman Mike has married (or remarried) on Desperate Housewives.
What all of these shows have in common is that they have been renewed for next season, so there will be some resolution. Not so many years ago, NBC had a Saturday night line-up of that consisted of The Pretender, The Others, and Profiler. All three ended on the same night, each with a cliffhanger. The first two ended with most of the main characters caught in explosions, as I recall. Profiler ended with the title character being locked away in an asylum, the result of an evil plan of her major enemy. All three series were cancelled. There was no way the stories would be resolved. (Actually, The Pretender was, in cable-network movie, if I recall correctly.) So why the cliffhangers?
On the other hand,some series wrapped up this year in a nice neat package. E.R., though it had some sappy moments, brought things full circle, especially bringing back the earliest characters to give a glimpse of what they're doing now. Scrubs, though it might come back sans Zack Braff, tied up neatly as well. And Boston Legal left us with Denny and Alan sitting on the balcony smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and discussing life, just as we expect they will always be.
But my favorite wrap-up was for the short-lived Life on Mars. Some people have complained that the resolution of how Sam ended up in 1973 was out of left field, but I thought it worked brilliantly. In fact, I think it was so clever that I'm not going to say what they did. Catch the show on DVD when it comes out in the fall!